Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Charlie Chaplin's City Lights

Chrlie Chaplin's City Lights, a silent film with music by Charlie Chaplin (Flower Girl's Theme by Jose Padilla) orchestrated by Arthur Johnston and Alfred Newman, original scoring restored by Timothy Brock. William Eddins, conductor.

Leaving Severance Hall tonight a pair of women on the stairs was heard remarking to the other "How would you describe this to know someone who wasn't here?" and it's true -- it's difficult to describe.

I'll readily admit that I wasn't going to Severance particularly excited about the content but, rather, after two weeks without hearing the Orchestra I would have gladly listened to the members of the orchestra -- a rather small subset of the ensemble tonight -- play just about anything.

And a sold-out crowd filled Severance tonight to hear the orchestra accompany City Lights, a film first released on January 30, 1931. Although the music wasn't particularly challenging (and seemed a bit repetitive), it was a delight to hear the orchestra back in Cleveland. Where I typically listen to the orchestra and let imagery and associations filter in to my mind, the silent film combined with the sounds of the orchestra made for a good evening.

Incidentally I don't think I've ever heard that much laughter in Severance Hall, and it's been a long time since I've heard that much laughter in response to a modern film.

Released in 1930 -- a little more than a year before Severance first opened, and about five years before the Kaufmann family moved into Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater -- while watching and listening I thought it was interesting to contemplate the entertainment of the day and what an audience sitting in Severance (or one of the PlayhouseSquare theatres) in 1931 would have thought about the film and its soundtrack.

Drawing relationships, Alfred Newman was a prolific film composer perhaps best known for the 20th Century Fox Fanfare (With or without the CinemaScope Extension), son Thomas Newman is still active in the craft, and nephew Randy Newman, who appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra earlier this season.

But I'm still not sure how to capture the experience for someone who wasn't there -- one thing was sure, the two-thousand plus audience members enjoyed a rather uncommon blending of sight and sound.


1 comment:

  1. I thought this was a great experience. Very nostalgic, very entertaining. I was also surprised by the laughter, but what do you expect from a comedy? I applaud whomever made the decision for this experiment, it was well received by everyone in our group. I hope they do more at least once a year.